Chief Justice Responds to the Police Commissioner’s Statements

Photo: JIS Photographer Chief Justice, The Hon Mrs. Justice Zaila Rowena McCalla, OJ

Press Release- The Chief Justice and other members of the Judiciary have taken note of the recent statements by the Commissioner of Police regarding the vast number of persons arrested and the likely length of time it will take for these matters to be tried.

We in the judiciary are just as concerned especially as these new matters are adding to the significant number of cases already in the system.

We are in agreement with the Commissioner regarding the likely length of time it would take to try the vast number of cases.

Only one case can be tried in each Court at a time and some cases will take longer than others, based on their nature and complexity.

There have also been a number of occasions when several cases have been ready for trial in the limited number of Courts, but only one could be accommodated in each Court on a given day.

Within the constraints of available human and physical resources, we in the Judiciary have been undertaking several Case Management Initiatives to increase the efficiency of the operation of the Courts and improve service to the public. These include:

1. Agreement evidence to enable cases to be tried only on relevant issues. This saves time and expenses.

2. Advance Sentence Indications in order to encourage more persons to plead guilty if they are in fact guilty. (Recent legislation has also made generous provisions for persons who plead guilty, especially at an early stage).

3. Specialised Criminal Courts to deal with appropriate cases expeditiously.

4. Outreach sensitization sessions in various regions across the island with all stake holders including Defence Attorneys, Prosecutors, Police Officers and Medical Practitioners to encourage these groups to embrace new measures to achieve greater efficiency.

At these sessions it has been emphasized that in order for these measures to be successful, it is not enough for accused persons to be arrested and charged.

Cases must be properly investigated, case files adequately completed and most importantly, presented to the Court at an early stage so as to enable accused persons to be aware of the case that they have to meet.

When files are not completed at an early stage, defence attorneys have indicated that it is difficult to properly advise their clients as to whether or not they should enter guilty pleas.

Despite our best efforts however, it must also be noted that the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Finance have responsibility to provide adequate physical and human resources to enable the Courts to handle the increasingly heavy case loads.

The provision of these resources has historically and continues to be woefully inadequate. This has negatively impacted the Courts ability to deal with the vast and increasing number of cases in the system.

We in the Judiciary however continue to work assiduously, within the available resources, to improve the delivery of justice.

JIS Social